Ceramides at a glance

  • Naturally occurring, long chains of lipids (fats) that are major components of skin’s outer layers
  • Known to improve barrier strength, hydration, and suppleness when used in skin care
  • Work best when combined with other replenishing ingredients like fatty acids and cholesterol
  • Can be derived naturally from plants or created synthetically

Ceramides description

Ceramides are naturally occurring, long chains of lipids (fats) that are major components of skin’s outer layers. In fact, the composition of healthy skin is made up of approximately 50% ceramides. Think of them as the mortar between your skin cells, forming a protective layer that limits moisture loss and protects against visible damage from pollution and other environmental stressors. When ceramide levels decrease (due to ageing and other factors), skin is more vulnerable to external stimuli and various disorders.As skin care ingredients, ceramides can be derived from plants or bio-identical forms can be created synthetically—both types work effectively (assuming they’re in a well-formulated product). Ceramides are known for their water-retention capacity (think hydration) and adding them to a skin care product helps provide replenishing and restorative benefits. Of note, they help strengthen skin’s barrier and can improve elasticity.Ceramides work best when combined with other replenishing ingredients like fatty acids and cholesterol. These lipid mixtures work in multiple ways to improve skin’s texture, suppleness, and help calm signs of sensitivity. Different classes of ceramides have been identified in skin. Examples of those used in skin care include ceramide AP, ceramide EOP, ceramide NG, ceramide NP, ceramide NS, phytosphingosine, and sphingosine. To one degree or another, all of them play signaling roles that help to keep skin healthy. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel’s 2020 assessment concluded that ceramide ingredients are safe in cosmetics in the present practices of use. Concentrations vary by the individual ceramide, but generally in skin care they’re used in amounts less than 1%, often much lower since it doesn’t take much to obtain ceramide’s numerous benefits.

Ceramides references

  • International Journal of Toxicology, 2020, pages 5S-25S
  • Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, October 2014, pages 2473-2483
  • Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, July 2014, pages 177-184
  • Journal of Lipid Research, July 2008, pages 1,466-1,476
  • Journal of Lipid Research, September 2007, pages 1936-1943
  • American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, Volume 4, 2003, pages 107-129
  • Journal of Investigative Dermatology, November 2001, pages 1,126-1,136
  • Skin Pharmacology and Applied Skin Physiology, September-October 2001, pages 261-271

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not Rated